In September of last year, New York City faced one of its wettest months in over a century, leading to severe flooding and disruptions. However, just across the Hudson River, Hoboken, New Jersey, showcased a different outcome, thanks to its innovative approach to handling stormwater runoff, notably influenced by initiatives like Rebuild by Design.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Hoboken, a city of nearly 59,000 residents, prioritized stormwater management in its infrastructure rebuilding efforts. Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic and founder of The New York Times initiative Headway, discussed Hoboken’s success on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.

Kimmelman highlighted Hoboken’s proactive stance in addressing climate change-related flooding, emphasizing its comprehensive approach, which included rebuilding sewers, creating green spaces with water-absorbing features, and constructing underground cisterns and pumps in parks to collect and disperse rainwater.

“These measures proved effective during a recent storm event in late September,” Kimmelman stated, “with Hoboken experiencing minimal flooding compared to neighboring areas.”

He continued, “Hoboken’s success underscores the importance of proactive urban planning and investment in resilient infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

While New York City faces greater challenges due to its size and complexity, Kimmelman suggested that lessons from Hoboken, particularly influenced by Rebuild by Design – a collaborative initiative that brings together global expertise, regional leadership, and community stakeholders to address overlapping environmental and human-made vulnerabilities – could inform scalable strategies for climate adaptation. (Learn more about Rebuild by Design from Henk Ovink, who served as a Senior Advisor to the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.)

Kimmelman emphasized the need for integrated approaches that rethink street design, sewer systems, and emergency response mechanisms. Additionally, Kimmelman called for sustained funding and long-term planning to address climate-related risks effectively, noting the significant federal support for large-scale projects like floodwalls and coastal protection measures.

“While New York City’s efforts to address climate change are ongoing,” Kimmelman added, “the importance of learning from smaller cities like Hoboken and adopting a forward-thinking approach to urban resilience cannot be overstated.”

The conversation on The Brian Lehrer Show underscored the critical role of proactive planning, community engagement, and collaboration in building cities that are resilient to the growing threats of climate change. As cities worldwide grapple with increasingly frequent and severe weather events, Hoboken’s success story, influenced by initiatives like Rebuild by Design, serves as a beacon of hope and a model for sustainable urban development.

To listen to the full discussion on WNYC, visit The Brian Lehrer Show.

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